The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing

While most people accept that mistakes are necessary, no one likes to be responsible for them. The good news is that mistakes, even a big mistake, don’t have to leave a permanent stain on your career. Mistakes are part of experimentation and requirement for innovation. So no worry if you have made any mistakes at work. The great thing is Top Employer likes applicant who have made mistakes and recovered from them.

According to Paul Schoemaker, (Co author of Brilliant Mistakes), most people tend to over react to their mistakes. They may be tempted to hide their mistakes, or even bad. It is much better to accept mistakes, learn from them, and move on. “Look forward and base decisions on the future not the past” Schoemaker says.

Acknowledge your mistake

It’s critical to be transparent. Don’t try to blame others. Even if it was a team mistake, acknowledge your role in it. The key is to be action-oriented and focus on the future. What will you do differently going forward?

Once you’ve admitted your slip-up, it may be appropriate to reframe it. Reframing is not making an excuse. But a genuine effort to help people see the mistake in a different light. Poor decisions or flawed processes can sometimes lead to mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that every bad outcome is a mistake. It’s important to understand what was in your control and what wasn’t. Explaining in a non-defensive way what led to the mistake can help people better understand why it happened and how to avoid it in the future.

Show what you have learned from mistakes

If you are in a leadership team, if the error was a result of a poor decision, explain to your boss how you will avoid making the same or similar mistakes in the future. By indicating that you’ve changed as a consequence of your mistake, you cheer up your manager and peers that you can be trusted with equally important tasks or decisions in the future. “If you are going to pay the price for making the mistake, you need to get the learning,” Schoemaker says. This is more important, learning is must if are going to pay for mistakes. Have you paid any penalty? Then you should have a Case Study (That’s why we have Business Analyst). “The best kind of mistake is where the costs are low but the learning is high,” Schoemaker says.

Case Study #1: How a leader should handle a mistake (from APJ Abdul Kalam – Wings of Fires)

In 1973 I became the project director of India’s satellite launch vehicle program, commonly called the SLV-3. Our goal was to put India’s “Rohini” satellite into orbit by 1980. I was given funds and human resources, but was told clearly that by 1980 we had to launch the satellite into space. Thousands of people worked together in scientific and technical teams towards that goal.

By 1979 I think the month was August. We thought we were ready. As the project director, I went to the control center for the launch. At four minutes before the satellite launch, the computer began to go through the checklist of items that needed to be checked. One minute later, the computer program put the launch on hold; the display showed that some control components were not in order. My experts , I had four or five of them with me and told me not to worry; they had done their calculations and there was enough reserve fuel. So I bypassed the computer, switched to manual mode, and launched the rocket. In the first stage, everything worked fine. In the second stage, a problem developed. Instead of the satellite going into orbit, the whole rocket system plunged into the Bay of Bengal. It was a big failure.

That day, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, Prof. Satish Dhawan, had called a press conference. The launch was at 7:00 am, and the press conference, where journalists from around the world were present.. was at 7:45 am at ISRO’s satellite launch range in Sriharikota [in Andhra Pradesh in southern India]. Prof. Dhawan, the leader of the organization, conducted the press conference himself. He took responsibility for the failure, he said that the team had worked very hard, but that it needed more technological support. He assured the media that in another year, the team would definitely succeed. Now, I was the project director, and it was my failure, but instead, he took responsibility for the failure as chairman of the organization.

The next year, in July 1980, we tried again to launch the satellite and this time we succeeded. The whole nation was jubilant. Again, there was a press conference. Prof. Dhawan called me aside and told me, “You conduct the press conference today.”

I learned a very important lesson that day. When failure occurred, the leader of the organization owned that failure. When success came, he gave it to his team. The best management lesson I have learned did not come to me from reading a book; it came from that experience.

Finally what you have to do if you’ve done a mistake?

* Accept It

* Show what you have learned from the mistakes


* Blaming others

* Stop doing the regular work and holding back from your mistake.

Source: this post is from what I learned from books and experts speech in conference.